There is no doubt that in our minds, Antarctica makes travel dreams come true. Antarctica is the coldest continent. Antarctica is the driest continent. Antarctica is the windiest continent and we were constantly reminded of that on our trip. Antarctica has a rich history full of brave explorers navigating these waters in days past. Voyages were made by men that seemingly no one in their right mind would attempt. It is the only continent not permanently inhabited. It is all this and so much more....The Antarctic Treaty System was created in 1959 to establish Antarctica as a zone of peace and science. Today, the area is protected, and a great deal of valuable scientific research occurs. People will always question and debate whether visitors should be allowed to visit these areas. Our experience with Quark is that safety and protection of this continent is taken seriously. We appreciate all that they do. We truly felt that the only thing we left behind were our footprints.
The 1800’s and early 1900’s was devasting to this region of the world due to whalers and sealers. Fur seals were hunted nearly to extinction and elephant seals were depleted. Fortunately, in place now is
a treaty with international cooperation to preserve these lands and animals. They can now live in a place where humans no longer threaten their very existence.......as it should be.
We had already experienced so much....and were no where near done...... Palaver Point 64 degrees 09’S/061 degrees 46’ W
On our way to Palavar Point we were joined by a school of Orcas Whales. They swam along our ship for a couple of hours. The captain slowed and stopped for a while so we could enjoy the show before us. We were mere visitors in their world, but they provided great pleasure to the ship's many whale photographers and observers. Most would point and exclaim each time they saw a blow and a whale tail.
Palaver Point offered stunning views and hundreds of chinstrap penguins. We were able to hike to the top of the viewpoint and look out at our ship and many mountains in the area. It was a bright sunny day, and everyone was pulling off their jackets and fully enjoying the sunshine glistening on the snow and ice packed fields. This turned out to be one of the warmest days we experienced thanks
to the sun and very little wind. The sun melted the snow and ice, so we slogged slowly ensuring no peril came to our bodies. LOL.
The zodiac ride at this location was grand. We believed our recent experience with Jen chasing the whales was a once in a lifetime event. Again, we happened to be in Jen’s zodiac, and she found a gold mine of whales. We parked as they floated, swam and surrounded our zodiacs. - several a mere ten feet away at times. Oooh’s, Ahh’s, gasps of joy as they surfaced. For an hour and a half, we were mesmerized by these sublime creatures of the sea. It was a performance that cannot be put to words. Our eyes were full of awe and our hearts full of joy. This was one of life’s grand experiences. We ended up staying longer than we were supposed to, but we knew Jen would not face any consequences for providing us such a grand afternoon of whale watching. Portal Point. 64 degrees 29’S/ 061 degrees 44’W
On this day, we once again loaded into the zodiacs for another voyage. This one was particularly because we made terra
firma and walked on the continent! A special moment indeed and a photo op was created so we all could get our photos taken with the Antarctic flag. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we climbed to the hilltop viewpoint to experience the beauty of the sea, whales and mountains surrounding us. We continue to attempt to put to words the stark beauty and vast wilderness of this area and what we have experienced and yet we continue to struggle. The jaw-dropping rugged vistas were simply awesome....day in...and day out. Cuverville Island 64 degrees 39’S/ 062 degrees 36’W
As our zodiacs pulled into shore, we were greeted by many penguins swimming and chasing each other in the shallow bay. This stop featured a large Gentoo colony. Many of these penguins were moulting and they look so ugly they are cute. This group seemed used to visitors as several penguins came very close to us. They seemed comfortable walking in front of us and hanging out. The penguins would waddle to the shore and frolic in the bay as we watched. They are simply adorable.
We reaffirmed for the umpteenth time that we never tire of penguins....what
We made it!
is it that makes them so special? You never want to get back in the zodiac and leave....you always want just a few more moments to enjoy these lovely creatures. Crossing the Circle 66 degrees 34’S/ 067 degrees 26’W
An incredibly special day was ahead of us as we all gathered on the bow of the ship, bundled in our warm weather gear, full of excitement for the champagne toast. Many with their GPS in hand so we’d know the minute we crossed the Antarctic circle; the countdown was on…. the captain blew the horn and we all cheered, hugged, drank our champagne and took photos. This imaginary line represents one of the five major circles of latitude, but it remains a magical experience knowing you’ve crossed a line few people have ventured toward. We had previously crossed the Arctic Circle, but without any fanfare as we were in an airplane at the time.
Our expedition leader Laurie and Paola, one of the crew, stood high on the rim of the ship with microphone in hand. Paola sang out with an operatic voice that created silence on the deck. Laurie then read an excerpt from “The Rime
of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel T Coleridge. As we listened tears ran down MJ’s cheeks and Dave simply smiled quietly at the moment. As the crowd dissipated, we stayed on deck and enjoyed a moment of silence full of emotions from the song and the speech which made us all feel very connected. We were now members of the "Red Nose Club." Crossing the Circle Speech:
Ladies and gentlemen, congratulations! You are about to join that small and exclusive group whose members have crossed the Antarctic Circle. Members whose lives have been touched and forever changed by the beauty and majesty of Antarctica. You are about to cross the elusive line that has captured the imagination of so many, the line below which the sun does not set during the summer solstice, and below which the sun does not rise during the winter solstice.
Today we stand on the shoulders of giants, those explorers of the heroic age who came here before us. Scott, Shackleton, Amundsen, Mawson, Bellingshausen & Arctowski, to name just a few.
On this day, Tuesday March 3rd, 2020, we follow in their footsteps. Today we add to the history of polar
exploration as we too cross the Antarctic Circle.
Today we sail into the real Antarctica.
Today we push south further still.
Today we have our eyes more widely opened to the wonders of the 7th continent.
By the end of this voyage you will indeed be ambassadors, spreading the word of a pristine continent at the bottom of the world, where there are no recognized boundaries, and the nations of the world are united to jointly manage and conserve this most beautiful land. Where the animals have no fear of people, where the air is clear and where people may freely go with the spirit of adventure in their heart. We hope that you continue to be captivated and amazed by the beauty and majesty of Antarctica.
“And now there came both mist and snow, And it grew wondrous cold: The ice was here, the ice was there, The ice was all around:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, Like noises in a swound! Under the keel nine fathom deep, From the land of mist and snow, The spirit slid: and it
Julian Jumps with Gusto
Photo credit: Ship's photographer
was he That made the ship to go.” Polar Plunge
Yeah.....we knew about this well before boarding the ship. Jump into the freezing water and get your picture taken.....Dave had absolutely no interest in plunging into freezing cold water and MJ had already had this experience in the Ross Sea at McMurdo Base, Antarctica on New Year’s Eve 1989 so she wasn’t going to plunge again. We gathered with friends on the starboard deck and watched others make their mark on history. Our new friend Julian was the first one in and this did not surprise us at all! We barely had time to get into position to film him. Hidden Bay 65 degrees 00’S/ 063 degrees 46’W
Today had some wicked winds which prevented us from a shore landing. Getting to and from the sheltered bay was a bit wet for some but well worth it to sit and in the quiet remoteness and enjoy the walls of ice. We absolutely enjoyed our romp in the zodiacs enjoying the icy waters in the bay. Once again.....much to take in as the views continued to be spectacular....even in the windiest of conditions. Andvord Bay 64
degrees 47’S/ 062 degrees 42’W
Trips like this require flexibility as it is not predictable what you will find at an anticipated landing site in the ever-changing weather and waters. The original plan was landing at Nedo Habour for our 2nd
touch of the mainland continent but it was not to be. Beautiful and plentiful ice flows kept that from happening, but it created a rather surreal zodiac ride enjoying the lazy crabeater seals and leopard seals lounging about the hunks of floating ice. It was a cloudy day but there was enough light to create heavenly reflections of the mountains and ice in the waters. The silence was only broken by soft cracks of ice in the distance. We did catch a glimpse of a humpback whale. Every day is special.....even if the original plan is ditched due to conditions no one can mitigate. Damoy Point 64 degrees 48’S/ 063 degrees 31’W
At this location we had plenty of Gentoo penguins for our entertainment along with two huts. One was a British refuge hut and the other an Argentinian hut. The British hut was previously used as a transit station for personnel and supplies to be
taken from the ship and flown south in early summer when sea ice blocked access. We are told it was used intermittently between 1973 and 1993 and cleaned up during the 1996/97summer. It was nice visiting another island with historical structures but the penguins always steal the show. Lemaire Channel 65 degrees 05’S/ 063 degrees 58’W
Often times this channel is blocked with ice and unable to navigate. This channel or strait is seven miles long and one mile wide. By this time in the trip we were confident we had an experienced captain and crew navigating for us but as this large ship enters this channel you can help but hold your breath, wonder how wide the chunks of glacier are under the water and stare in amazing as to how close the walls of mountains are to the ship. Bravo is all we can say. Birds circle above us. We see another ship off in the distance and attempt to determine if they have already been through this passage, waiting for us to clear out of the way or watching in wonder and hoping they are going to traverse those waters. It was the only ship
we saw for well over two weeks.....yes...it is that remote. Pleneau Island 65 degrees 063’S/ 064 degrees 02’W
With great sadness this was our last trip off the ship before heading home. It was grand. The island was full of penguins hopping around on big rocks, flopping and twirling around in the shallow waters near shore. They were very active and came very close. And again....we did not want to leave...just wanted to linger a few more minutes to take in these magnificent creatures for the last time on this trip.
The entire trip we’d been making an effort to get in Dave Allcorn’s zodiac and on this trip we were successful. Dave has a great sense of humor and was able to get us very close to the penguin colonies. On our trip we came along a leopard seal eating a penguin and were able to watch mother nature in action. Just like lions in Africa they play with their prey before killing it. We watched the injured penguin get nudged and tossed around a bit before he finished him off. The Drake Passage and Cape Horn
The Drake passage was once an important
We are now members of the "Red Nose Club"
international trade route especially before the Panama Canal opened. It is infamous for its wicked rough seas. We are told that in years past when a sailor had “rounded the horn” he wore a good loop earring in his left ear and was given special privileges to put one foot up on the table at dinner.
The passage of the Drake was talked about from the beginning of the trip to the end. The passage is described in three ways; the Drake Lake, the Drake Shake and the Drake Quake. Staff told us stories of recent passengers having to stay in their cabins the last two days of the trip and food boxes were delivered to the rooms so everyone would stay safe. On one voyage a big wave hit the side of the ship and water came crashing through the lobby. We are told no one was injury yet many were surprised. On this three-week trip we had already had two nights of rough seas. The first one about 25%!o(MISSING)f the boat was seasick and on the 2nd
more than 50%!o(MISSING)f the ship was sick and taking drugs. (MJ was included in that group) Our passage
"You jumping in first....or me?"
of the Drake was the Drake Lake and no one complained.
We traveled 4068 nautical miles and had a blast! Each day was different than the day before and filled with excitement and wonder. We miss all of our new friends.
FYI: Quark Expeditions does not charge an extra fee for those traveling alone. On our trip were several who selected this company for that reason.
We’ve learned we do not like writing our blogs after our trip. Writing in real time while we are feeling the emotions in real time is the best for us. We can better convey the happiness, enthusiasm or disappointment of our adventure. If our laptop had not died, we would have been able to do that on this trip also.....but so it goes.....until next time.....
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